New Delhi: Local newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday published blank front pages to protest the “unexplained” ban of government advertisements to two main English dailies — Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.
“In protest against unexplained denial of government advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader – Kashmir Editors Guild,” was the only sentence published to note the protest on the newspapers.
Among the 15 newspapers that protested include top English dailies such as the Kashmir Monitor, Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Images, Kashmir Vision and Kashmir Observer and Urdu newspapers such as the Srinagar Times, Kashmir Uzma, Afaaq, Aqaab and Taimeeli Irshad.
The protest comes on the back of a statement issued by Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) on 8 March. “At a time when world’s largest democracy is readying for one of the major electoral exercises on earth, the Kashmir Editors Guild is lamenting over the continued denial and unexplained halt to the rightful disbursal of government advertisements to Kashmir’s two major daily newspapers,” read the statement by the KEG.
The spokesperson of the KEG, Shafat Kira, told ThePrint that it had been seeking an explanation from the J&K administration but since there has been no response, the papers had to protest by publishing blank pages.
“The main objective of our protest is not money through these advertisements but it includes many public interest notifications. By doing this, the government has blocked information to the public,” Kira said. “We were pushed to take this means of protest otherwise we had issued statements earlier also.”
‘Ban after Pulwama attack’
The Jammu and Kashmir administration allegedly stopped the advertisements a day after the deadly Pulwama attacks on 14 February, in which at least 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
“There is no official order, which is why KEG and other journalists of the Valley are protesting,” Moazum Mohammad, the President of Kashmir Journalists Association told ThePrint. “This approach of the JK administration highlights their attempts at scuttling the media. It a larger question of press freedom.”
The guild said it has requested Governor Satya Pal Malik for a “formal response” and “immediate undoing of the crippling order”.
“The editor’s body is hopeful that the government will give it top priority and undo the anti-democratic restrictions,” further reads the statement.
Former CM slams administration
Former chief minister minister, Omar Abdullah, had spoken out against the alleged ban previously.
“In a classic case of shooting the messenger the state government is reported to have blocked Greater Kashmir newspaper group from any government advertisements,” Abdullah had tweeted on 22 February. “If true I’m not sure what this move is meant to achieve other than to create a pliant, subservient media.”
This is not the first instance of the local media being at loggerheads with the government. In 2016, the PDP-BJP government had banned one of the two affected newspapers, the Kashmir Reader, for three months.
“In 2016, KR was banned for three months from October 2, 2016. That time also the PDP-BJP government provided no explanation but just issued an order,” Moazum said. “They claimed to have pre-empted violence, which is absurd. If the ground situation is grim how can a newspaper publish a rosy picture just because the government thinks that the truth will spark violence.”
The ban was withdrawn after protests by the media.
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